New app provides Netflix-like service for books

Readers can view books that are popular on Oyster and those that are recommended by their friends. Photo courtesy of Oyster.
Oyster enables readers to view books that are popular as well as those that are recommended by their friends. (Photo courtesy of Oyster)

Companies like Netflix and Spotify have provided movie and music streaming to their subscribers for years, but books have largely been left out of that market.

Oyster, a startup company based in New York, has created an app that will allow subscribers unlimited access to thousands of books for a low monthly fee.

For $9.95 a month, more than  100,000 books are available on the app, with new titles added weekly. Users have unlimited access to these novels each month.

“We are committed to building Oyster as a library with vast selection of incredible breadth, and growing our collection over time,” the official Oyster website said.

Popular titles include “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel, “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen and “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. Genres available include fiction & literature, cookbooks, history and science fiction.

“It’s like having a million books with me all the time,” said Hannah Drew, an accounting major from Tempe, Ariz. “Great idea for avid readers and travelers.”

Users can download their favorite novels and still have them available to read when outside of cell coverage or Wi-fi service, as the 10 most recent novels will remain in the Oyster library.

“I would love a service like this,” said Emilee Crowder, an elementary education major from North Potomac, Md. “Having a number of books available to me for a set price would make me want to read more, and I would feel more well-rounded, finding books that are available to read that I may not normally be apt to read.”

The app allows readers to choose a font style, size and brightness that will maximize their reading experience. (Photo courtesy Oyster)

The app allows the reader to connect with and follow friends who are also using it. Friends can then recommend titles for their followers.

“We created Oyster to evolve the way people read and to create more of those special moments that only books can offer,” the Oyster press kit said. “From anywhere a mobile device can go … our mission is to build the best reading experience, one that is both communal and personal, anytime, anywhere.”

For some, the price seems a little high for the service. Brian Appel, a psychology major from Portland, said the price would need to be lower for the app to be worth it.

“I don’t know very many people who can read that many books in a year,” Appel said. “I would pay maybe $3 to $4 a month.”

Oyster is available only in the United States for the iPhone and iPod Touch, with an iPad version set to come out this fall. Plans to expand the app to non-Apple platforms have not been announced but are expected.

The app is currently available by invitation only. To request an invite, visit

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